Reading 1 - 1Ki 19
James calls Elijah "a man of like nature with ourselves" (Jam 5:17, RSV), and nowhere is this more evident than in Elijah's confrontation with God on Mount Horeb (1Ki 19). This austere prophet had just been instrumental in a great victory for the honor of the Lord over Baal, on mount Carmel (1Ki 18). But from the heights of spiritual exaltation Elijah was plunged into the depths of despair when he realized that his great accomplishments had not softened the heart of Ahab, and had served only to intensify Jezebel's hatred for himself. Fleeing for his life, and yet in his despondency losing all desire to live, he came into the wilderness, to Horeb (1Ki 19:8). In a pathetic prayer Elijah reveals that he has given up on Israel, and that he sees himself as the only true believer remaining (1Ki 19:10). We have all heard such laments as this, generally for much less reason than Elijah's. In the circumstances we may understand his pessimism, but God saw fit to dispel the mistaken notions that led to his negative state of mind. A contemplation of this incident might also cure the state of mind of any brother who, more or less self-righteously, isolates himself from 'less worthy' brethren.
God called Elijah forth from his cave, and paraded before him a tremendous panorama of His power -- strong winds, earthquake, and fire. But the Lord was not in these; Elijah saw that something was missing. At last came a still small voice, and Elijah, bracing himself, came out of the cave where he had fled for fear at the previous manifestations. The soft voice had a soothing effect; now at last the frightened prophet felt, when he heard it, the presence of God. Thus was the message driven home to him: God is best known, not in works of judgment, but in the still small voice which calls His people, when properly prepared by adversity, to repentance.
And Elijah was to be that voice! "Go, return on thy way" (v 15). Like Samuel before him, Elijah was carefully taught that wickedness is primarily an affront against God, not against any individual (1Sa 8:7); and consequently no man (no matter how "righteous") has any prerogative to turn his back on his brethren. Elijah must minister to the remnant that remains in Israel; in the midst of gross apostasy he is not to flee in fear, but rather to stand firm for God and provide a rallying point for the sheep of Israel.
"Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him" (v 18).
"When men stand in the mouth of their caverns and declare that they alone are fighting the battle of right, and distress the hearts and weaken the hands of their fellow-warriors by their self-centered declamations based upon ignorance of the true state of affairs, not seeing the faithful attitude of the 7,000, then surely is needed the earthquake, the fire, and the still small voice to purge them of their discouraging fantasies" (Charles A. Ladson).
Reading 2 - Jer 45:3-5
"You said, 'Woe to me! The LORD has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.' The LORD said, 'Say this to him: 'This is what the LORD says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the LORD, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life' " (Jer 45:3-5).
Baruch was a faithful servant of God, but (like us?) he was not above a bit of petty grumbling. His complaint (and remember, every complaint is really a complaint against God!) went like this: "Woe is me now! For the LORD hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest" (Jer 45:3).
Baruch was very much like most of us. He wanted to have his cake, and eat it too. He wanted to see God's purpose fulfilled in the earth, but he wanted a good measure of personal comfort in the meanwhile. In short, he wanted God and "mammon"! God's answer to Baruch was blunt: "Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up" (v 4).
Do you think, God said, that everything in this age should minister to your comfort? I have greater purposes to accomplish, and you are just one small piece of a large operation. Do you expect that I'm going to shake the foundations of your world, and topple all worldly institutions, while you escape unscathed? "And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest" (v 5).
So it will be for us, brothers and sisters. We live at the end of an age, on the brink of a volcano. A time of testing is coming, to prepare us for Christ's return, and to teach us that we can place no trust in anything around us, but only in God. Do we seek "great things" for ourselves in this crumbling world? It is already too late. Let us pray God to spare only our lives.
Do we seek comfort now? It is a delusion. Do we somehow have the idea we can recline in our easy chairs and stare at our wide-screen color televisions, until the limousine comes to take us away to the kingdom? It is not to be, and the sooner we are rid of such fantasies the better!
Reading 3 - 1Co 5:8
"Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth" (1Co 5:8).
"To this day the Orthodox Jew is ruthless in the exclusion of all leaven (or yeast) from his home for the seven day feast [ie, of Passover]; even to the extent of using a special set of cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils lest a trace should be left on that normally used. In many cases this is merely a slavish adherence to the letter of the law but we can take a lesson from it. Should we not be just as diligent and just as ruthless ourselves with our lives, with our thoughts, words and deeds to exclude from them anything savouring of malice or evil? Bearing in mind the nature of the evil which Paul had in mind at this time, the warning is surely not to be lightly passed over when we live in a world rapidly becoming as morally degenerate as was the world by which the brethren and sisters at Corinth were surrounded. Such moral depravity must at all costs be kept at bay, and the only way this can possibly be done is by each one purging from his or her heart the old leaven that as a community we may be a new lump, as we are unleavened" (E. Toms, "Christ Our Passover", "The Dawn Christadelphian" 21:280,281).